The elevator came to a stop with a silent hiss and Megan stepped out of it. Going with something from a shady source was a bad idea, she knew, but there she was doing exactly that.
As it turned out, the envelope left by the strange man from Megan’s apartment the previous night, Arthur Dean, Principal Officer in charge of the United Nation’s Covert Affairs Department on Threat Assessment and Response- she still couldn’t bring herself to believe that was a real thing- contained not actually a job offer but a set of instructions.
Go to Grand Central Station, it said. Enquire about which trains leave to the farthest parts of town at exactly 11:15am. Which was exactly what she did.
The moment Megan spoke to the receptionist, a Chinese woman whose name tag identified her as Jen, of her enquiry, she smiled. “Of course, Miss Months," she said, surprising Megan that she even knew who she was when she hadn't made an introduction, "there’s a brochure here for you.” She handed her a leaflet.
The leaflet contained another set of instructions for her to follow. Go to the line supplying the Bronx. Walk down the service tunnel till you see a door marked 12A. Open it.
At this point, Megan began to feel uneasy. The “covert” in the situation was starting to become a little too covert for her. This is exactly how people get abducted never to be seen again, she reminded herself.
However, truth be told, she was also curious about what laid at the end of the proverbial tunnel Arthur was sending her down; and knowing fully well that he would most definitely pay her another visit- which would be even less pleasant than the first- if she didn’t comply, she followed the leaflet’s exact instructions. She went to the Bronx supply track, walked down the service tunnel until she found the door marked 12A. Authorized Personnel Only, and opened it.
The only thing that greeted Megan on the other side of the door was pitch blackness. There was absolutely nothing for her to see. I really I'm about to get abducted never to be seen again, aren't I? she wailed inside.
Just then, a torchlight came on, revealing an even smaller tunnel than the one she had come through. “Miss Months?” A voice came with the light and her eyes adjusted to see a man of about seventy years old, with full grey hair and beard, wearing a blue and white-striped polo t-shirt and denim jeans, walking towards her.
“That’s me,” she replied, purposely leaning back against the door behind her in case she had to bolt at a moment’s notice.
“I’m Earl,” the man introduced himself. “Please come with me. Your ride’s waiting.”
Megan, after some minutes of thinking about it, followed Earl and he led her down the tunnel to a speedboat on what looked like an underground stream under New York. Earl got in and started the engine.
“Where are we going to?” she asked.
“I’m not at liberty to say, ma’am,” he replied. “My instructions are to take you to your destination. Nothing more.”
Now, that’s exactly what a shady organization would say, Megan thought to herself, which, truth be told, Arthur and his covert affairs threat department or whatever they were about fit right under.
She checked with herself what vibe she was getting from Earl and what came back was silence and impatience; the latter which even a toddler could deduce with the obvious look the old man was shooting at her like he would like for her to get into the boat already but was just being too polite to say it.
However, nothing threatening was coming from him and that was what she termed the most important thing. “Alright, let’s go,” Megan finally said and got in with him.
Earl, silent as Megan had predicted, drove the speedboat down the tunnel with the expertise of a sailor. He weaved through the tunnels without hesitation, picking which road to navigate like he had done so a thousand times before; and she suspected that he had.
The ride went on for about an hour, around which time Megan lost a sense of where she was; she wasn’t even sure if she was still in New York or not. The turns were endless and they were all underground- she didn’t even know how it was possible they hadn’t come up into the light once- which meant that there was no sight on the way but the tunnels to tell her where they were or headed.
“We’re here,” Earl suddenly said out of nowhere and docked the boat at a shore that was quite identical to the one they had left.
Perhaps we actually went in circles and I just didn’t know, Megan thought to herself.
But the shore wasn’t the same one they had left, as she herself soon confirmed the moment she highlighted from the boat, which turned back immediately and returned the way it came, and she walked up to what she realized what was a large steel door in the wall.
“Hello,” she called.
Immediately, what appeared to be a green light emerged from a point in the door and ran across her from head to toe, as if scanning her. “Please input your password,” an AI voice commanded and a virtual keypad appeared on what she realised was an unreflecting glass component of the door in front of its steel one.
Password, Megan thought to herself, confused. Arthur didn't tell me anything about a password.
But out of nowhere, she suddenly remembered the only numeric combination she had encountered on her crazy journey to the place and everything clicked into place. 1…1…1…5, she inputted onto the keypad and immediately, it disappeared and a hand scanner appeared in its place.
“Confirm your identity,” the AI said and Megan placed her right hand on the scanner. “Welcome, Megan Months.” The door slid open to reveal an elevator.
She stepped in, the door slid close after her, and the elevator descended to deposit her where she now was.
At first glance, the place where Megan stepped into looked everything like an ordinary office building, but she soon recognised that it was anything but.
For starters, the building was less of a building and more like a giant glass structure enclosed inside of a rock. The walls were surrounded thickly on all sides by rocks, like the latter had been hewed to accommodate them. The only opening to the outside was at top of a dome opening in the roof where the sunlight came in to allow the sight of the blue afternoon sky.
Then, the building, divided into two floors by a glass floor had men and women in suits, all looking to be under the age of forty, in various parts of it. Some were on Bluetooth earpieces talking to someone in almost every language on the planet, others flipped through tablets, watching videos and typing responses as they walked from one end of the building to the next without breaking a stride; and yet others just stood on a spot, watching the others work with neutral expressions on their faces.
It was like business, science fiction, and military had been rolled into one enclosure and Megan felt confused as to how she was supposed to fit into the middle of it all.
Just then, she sighted what she thought to be the receptionist desk- the woman behind it was the only one she could read a calm and helping vibe from in the midst of the organised chaos around her- and she walked over to it. “Hello, I’m-”
“Megan Months.” A man in a black suit suddenly appeared at her side. “Arthur told me to expect you.”
To Megan’s uttermost surprise, the man looked to be in his late fifties; presumably the only one in the entire building who was. He was bald, African- she guessed West African from his accent- and quite muscularly sound for his age. He radiated power just like Arthur did and for a second, the fear she had felt at the latter’s sight came flooding back to her and she cowered a little. “Who are you?” she asked.
“Dennis Ahmad,” he replied, extending a handshake. “I’m the Director of UNCADTRE’s paramilitary response’s division, or as I like to call it, Olympus.”
Megan didn’t know how to respond and she froze for some seconds. The covert affairs, the environment, Olympus; they were just too much information for her mind to process all at once she feared that she might pass out from them.
Dennis wasn’t giving her the chance to relax and and faint though as he took her hand just then and forced her back to the present when he turned and begun to walk with her in tow; she having to shake herself off to keep up with him.
“I don’t know what I’m doing here, Director,” Megan said as they walked, deciding to go for the truth there and then.
“Well, that’s what Arthur sent you here to find out,” he replied, still not breaking his stride.
“But can't you just tell me that right now?” She forced him to a stop.
Dennis looked at her and sighed. It looked like he had a lot of things on his mind to say but was deciding to keep mute about them. “Look, Megan,” he left her hand to touch her shoulders and she felt a wave of sincerity coming from him, “I know that things are little disorienting at the moment, but what you’re about to do is going to change the world. You just have to wait and see.”
With that, he pressed his wristwatch, which Megan realized then was actually touchscreen, and a section of the wall- both glass and rock- slid open to reveal an elevator. “Tell me, Miss Months, do you believe in superpowers?” he asked as they stepped into the elevator.
“On TV, yes.” She shot him a curious look.
He smiled. “That’s good enough,” he pressed the only button on the wall and the elevator began to descend, “at least for now.”